When you own a business, it’s easy to get caught up in the daily details of delivering your product or service. In an effort to provide the best customer experience, you may find yourself pitching here, there, and everywhere to help out, move things along, and get the job done. That’s all well and good as long as you have the time for that. But it becomes a problem when those tasks start to take over your life and conflict with your ability to see the overall picture and keep the business on track.
Small business owners often aren’t aware that this is happening. They like what they do, and they probably like the process of delivering on a promise — providing the best product, service, or experience possible. After all, that’s why you started your business, right? You saw a need and decided you could fill it better than anyone else. It’s your passion. It’s what you live for.
How to Keep the Company from Running Your Life
So how do you keep the operational details from controlling your life so you can guide the company to bigger and better things? Here are six productivity tips for small business owners that can free up time and help you run the business more efficiently. Implementing even two or three of these will make a difference in how you perform each day. And they might prevent you from burning out as quickly, too.
#1. Keep your focus on the most important tasks, not the most urgent ones.
First of all, take a lesson from Steven R. Covey, author of the best-selling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. He popularized the notion of the time management matrix, emphasizing the completion of important tasks over urgent ones. Important tasks are defined as crises, deadline-driving issues, or extremely pressing needs. These tasks are crucial to business success. Urgent tasks, on the other hand, are often found barking loudly for your attention. Examples include the ever-expanding inbox, emails, phone calls, interruptions from coworkers, etc. Occasionally urgent tasks are also important, but more often than not, they aren’t. Focus your attention on the tasks that will move the business ahead, and complete them first. Leave the others for later.
#2. Automate or outsource as many tasks as possible.
In today’s modern work world, there’s no need for you to do everything. If there are tasks that can easily be outsourced, do it. Let someone else handle incoming phone calls and scheduling of jobs, for instance. Technology can also help. Software applications often handle tasks more efficiently than humans can. Investing in a few productivity tools such as project management or collaboration software may be just what the company needs. Not only will it free up your time, but it may also free up your employees’ time, allowing them to make more sales calls or dream up additional streams of revenue.
#3. Hire the best and cross-train them.
Hiring employees has been a challenge for every company lately, but that doesn’t mean good people aren’t available. You may have to look a little harder. Hire the best employees you can afford. Look for people with a good attitude, vast curiosity, and a willingness to do what it takes to succeed. Then teach them everything you can about the business. The more they know, the more likely they are to step in and help when needed. And the more people you have on staff with that willingness and ability, the less the burden falls on you.
#4. Give your team the tools they need.
When you’re in a productive mood, there’s nothing worse than being ready to accomplish something and then discovering you’re missing an essential tool to complete the job. Don’t let this happen. Give your team the tools they need to do their jobs effectively and efficiently. Don’t make them hunt around for specific items, wait forever on a slow Internet connection, or get put on hold by too many levels of approval on a project. Help your team be successful, and they’ll return the favor.
#5. Eliminate time-wasters.
Get rid of tasks or processes that don’t contribute value to the organization. These time-wasters sometimes appear as the result of progress: a process is revamped, but not all the facets of the old process are eliminated afterward. Take a close look at your company’s processes and procedures. Cut out steps that aren’t necessary, don’t add value, or can be done without. There’s no sense wasting time on time-wasters.
#6. Delegate and then let go.
A big challenge for many small business owners is letting go of control. They often feel the need to be involved in all aspects of the business, from the most mundane to the most crucial. But that’s not very efficient, especially if you have a great team of employees on board. If you’re finding yourself overwhelmed by the daily minutiae, delegate some of the small stuff and then let go. Trust your employees to have your back. They can handle it.
Choose Where to Spend Your Resources
For small businesses, productivity is all about doing as much as possible with as few people as possible spending as little money as possible. But that doesn’t mean you have to do everything yourself. It’s okay to get help when you need it. When you invest your time, money, and other resources in the right places, you’ll see the business take off. And that’s what you’ve been working toward all along, right?